Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, Commander, Convoy Operations in the Atlantic Ocean, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations



27 July, 1917.

From:     Commander of Convoy Operations in the Atlantic Ocean.

To  :     Chief of Naval Operations.

SUBJECT:  Escort for troop ships.

     1.   The probabilities of enemy attack on our transports will increase with every passage. It is therefore recommended that so far as possible no ship be employed as troop ship which has less than a sustained sea speed of sixteen knots.1

     2.   It is further recommended that every convoy shall be escorted the entire voyage by not less than a division of destroyers (6) for every four transports. In order to accomplish this it will be necessary to shift four divisions of long radius destroyers to this duty and replace them by 750 ton destroyers, coal and oil burners, which are not at present otherwise employed. Oiling at sea will of course be necessary but this problem having been solved no longer presents any difficulties.2

     3.   This arrangement would permit the weekly sailing of at least four transports and would afford nine or ten days overhaul for each division every month, thus increasing the satisfactory maintenance of the material.3

     4.   It is most essential that there be no break in the line of protection in the passage of the troop ships from shore to shore, if without undue sacrifice of other vital considerations, and a disturbance of the balance of the various problems, it can be accomplished. It may be assumed that the enemy is perfectly informed of logistics, not only of our destroyers, but of the troop ships, and that they know, or will soon know, our procedure of transportation, and will be quick to detect any weak link in our line. They will attack there.

     5.   In war risk of course must be incurred, but it is well to avoid unnecessary risk, especially when trained officers and men are so urgently needed, and moreover, it must be remembered that every days work of the enemy submarines enhances enormously the value of every deep water ship of large capacity.

Albert Gleaves

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, Albert Gleaves Papers, Box 8.

Footnote 1: While fast ships were used to transport the troops, they were those capable of twelve, not sixteen, knots. Still, Crisis at Sea: 363.

Footnote 2: This was one of several proposals concerning how troopship convoys should be protected. See: William S. Sims to Benson, 31 July 1917. In the end, Benson compromised. He did not, as Gleaves advocated, require that destroyers accompany the troopships to and from Europe but did order Sims to give priority to the protection of troopships. See: Sims to Daniels, 5 August 1917; Still, Crisis at Sea: 360-61.

Footnote 3: The refit of destroyers was an ongoing concern, see: Joel R. Poinsett Pringle to Sims, 27 July 1917.

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